Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The River at dawn

We had an usually day at the river yesterday – which might be of modest, puzzling, interest.  Ginger will be 7 and Sage 5 in May and we’ve been going down to a dry river bed several times a week for the past several months, but the weather has been getting warmer so I decided to try getting used to going down there shortly after dawn.  At noon when we usually go down, we rarely see anyone, but that wasn’t true of dawn – at least not yesterday’s dawn.
As I drove the Jeep down a rutted path toward the river we saw a man and woman with at least 8 tiny dogs or puppies (I initially had the impression they were small dogs and not puppies, but upon thinking it over I am not so sure).  I had the impression they were all the same breed but I was too far away to see what it was.  The small dogs were scurrying about so it would have been difficult to count them.  They also had one large German Shepherd, presumably to protect the small dogs from coyotes and feral dogs – if the couple was familiar with the area – or, perhaps it was the GSD’s pups.  The man stopped at the crest of a hill and scowled back toward us as we continued on away from him and his brood.
Since it was a bit cold I decided not to head under the oak and poplar trees as we usually do but to stay out in the open, walking up stream (a figurative term since there was no water in the river).  We weren’t 15 minutes into our hike before Sage started barking furiously – something she has never done down there before.  I checked to see what she was barking at and on the other side of some bushes saw a young man walking along holding a paper up before him – looking to neither the right or the left as he walked along.   I have no idea what he was up to, but it didn’t strike me as threatening.  I called Sage too me and the three of us (Ginger was already near me) entered some brush away from this strange fellow.  This is a bit remarkable in view of a past discussion I started on the matter of Ridgebacks becoming “soft.”  Ginger and Sage were definitely softer than my previous Ridgeback, Trooper, but Sage has shown signs of rising to the occasion when some sort of protection was required – at least in her opinion.  Ginger, on the other hand, has never shown any sort of protectiveness – other than producing a steady stare at strange behavior; which seems to be unnerving to some people. 
Ten or fifteen minutes later we popped out of the brush.  I looked back and this fellow was now following in our direction.  I assumed that his car was up on the road East of us; so I veered off toward the South to give him a wide berth.  Also, we walked on far enough to give him plenty of time to get to his car if that is where he was going.
At one point on the way back I saw that someone had tacked a paper plate on a tree and painted a large dot in the center of it.  Upon inspection I could see several 22-sized holes in it.  The paper showed no signs of being weathered; so it was probably tacked up that morning.  A bit further along I heard some gun fire.  Did the target shooters hide in the brush until we passed by.  That doesn’t seem likely else Sage would have nosed them out and barked at them.  Was he the strange fellow holding the paper up before his eyes.  Perhaps the paper was a target.  Perhaps the gunfire was from another location.
On the way out, not too far from the Jeep, I saw a piece of deadwood lying in the sand that I thought might be turned into a hiking stick; so on the way back I stopped and cut off the piece I wanted.  When I finished and looked up I could see an old pickup truck perhaps a hundred yards behind us.  It looked as though it had been heading in our direction, but seeing us there, the driver decided to turn about and avoid us.  But as he did so, he got stuck in the sand.  The truck had a tarp over the back.  I don’t know what was under it or why he wanted to avoid us.
The sun was nice and warm by the time we got back to the Jeep.   I can’t say for sure that the girls saw any rabbits.  At one point they chased after something I thought might be a rabbit, but a moment later a roadrunner scurried out of the brush and took briefly to the air.  Once the girls saw him doing that they gave up.

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